2020 rolls on.
This year has brought an onslaught of challenges that have altered our lives dramatically. At Drive we’ve had to constantly shift gears to survive as a new business. Beyond a global pandemic, fire season in California started early this year, as lightning strikes in mid-August sparked wildfires across the state. The timing of these challenges during the chaos of harvest while launching a new business has made for an interesting few months.
As a self-funded small business in a competitive marketplace, you need to take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way and hope for a bit of luck. For us that involved connecting with Dr. Ming Quan late in the growing season. A fellow SRJC wine student, Dr. Quan has pivoted from his career as a doctor to the owner and developer of a meticulous Pinot Noir vineyard in the Carneros region of Sonoma County. In a season that prevented us from producing our Zinfandel and Syrah, we were fortunate enough to sign on to be the first to make a wine from the Pinot Noir vines planted by Dr. Quan.
Due to late summer heat and working with the early ripening Pinot Noir, we started harvest early this year. We produced a Rosé and Pinot Noir. Our harvest began on August 21 when we picked fruit for our Rosé and ended on August 25 when we picked our Pinot Noir. The fires were a safe distance from the vineyard location and we’re optimistic that there will be no negative effects from the fires in our resulting wines. This year will be a memorable one, we feel fortunate to have our health and (some of) our sanity intact and a couple of fun wines to introduce you to in the coming years.
Our rosé fruit was harvested the evening of August 21. The grapes had a Brix of 21.7, a TA of 5.4 g/L and a pH of 3.5. It’s been our approach in making rosé to target acid numbers over sugar, helping us produce a wine that has the same acid-driven style we’ve strived for in previous vintages. The grapes were pressed upon arrival at the winery and the wine fermented and aged in a combination of stainless steel and neutral French oak for added complexity. We’ll have this one ready for you in time for summer of 2021 and hopefully it’ll be the centerpiece of our return to normalcy.
Pinot Noir is a completely new endeavor for us. While our roots are in Zinfandel, 2019 involved shifting gears slightly to make a Syrah. Another hearty red varietal wasn’t exactly a complete deviation for us, but given the old world, cool climate style it did involve quite a bit of research (aka tasting wines, tough life). The decision to make Pinot in the middle of the summer gave us several weeks to consume, both literally and figuratively, as much about the grape as we could. After reading through insightful books and journal articles, having countless discussions with talented winemakers and tasting through a variety of wine styles, we were ready to take on the challenge.
We picked 4 tons of Pinot Noir on August 25. The grapes came in with a Brix of 23.1, a TA of 5.6 g/L and a pH of 3.7. We’re looking to produce an expressive and complex Pinot Noir, using mostly neutral oak to enhance the natural fruit character of the grape. Quan Vineyard is planted to a combination of clone 667 (from Dijon, France) and Calera clone (a “suitcase” clone from France, with plenty of rumored backstories), both of which should provide an added layer of complexity. Dr. Quan has worked tirelessly to develop an exceptional vineyard. This will be the first year that a winery brings in Pinot Noir from Quan Vineyard. We can only hope that the resulting wine matches the passion that has gone into the vineyard.
There’s no doubt that the combined challenges of this harvest on top of the difficulties running a business in 2020 has opened our eyes. We’re confident that through grit and determination, we’ll make it through this. We can’t let these obvious long-term challenges go unanswered when things return to “normal”. It’s important as small business owners in an agriculture-based industry, that we take note of our changing climate and economy. Moving forward we’ll continue to focus increasingly on sustainability, organics, biodiversity and leaving this world better than it was when we started.
John & Tom